I found out Prince had died through Twitter. A tweet from Master of None actress Lena Waithe was the first update I noticed when I took a break from work and opened Twitter in my browser.
“I need more reputable sources before I believe Prince is dead,” it read. I had no reaction. Why would I? Prince isn’t dead, I thought to myself. This is obviously a ridiculous rumor that will soon be reported as a hoax. Prince isn’t dead so I continue to mindlessly scroll through my feed. Most of the people I follow are news organizations, journalists and various personalities involved in media. It didn’t take long for me to realize that at the age of 57 Prince had died.
My hours that followed were similar to everyone else who never met him but knew enough through his music to make loosing him feel like a personal loss. Since the news broke I’ve been obsessive about taking in every piece of news on the icon. I tune into talk shows to catch tributes and heartfelt words about him. I’ve watched countless YouTube performances and listened to his music on repeat the same way you wrap yourself in a the sweater of a loved one who has passed—smothering myself in what they leave behind has always been a comfort to me.
It wasn’t long before monuments lit up in purple, music stations replaced scheduled programs with constant stream of Prince hits, members of government and massive corporations paid their respects in a public way because he was someone who touched so many people. Everyone has a memory, or ten, that come to mind when they think of Prince. I remember discovering 1999 in the mid 90s; I guess I would have been about 11-years old. I had it on a mix tape and I went through a period where I played it over and over so I could take it in and dance alone in my bedroom. Back then on repeat required walking over to the tape player and alternating between the stop and rewind buttons until I was at the right spot on the cassette—that’s love. I remember blasting When Doves Cry when it came on the radio while my Mom drove my sister and I to school in our grey Oldsmobile. A dreary morning commute to where we needed to go turned into a mobile dance club with the speakers blaring while my Mom’s Revlon red lips spread as she smiled so hard her cheeks looked like they were carrying a crab apple in each one. She would shout over the music, never turning him down, to explain who sang the song and how much she loved it. This was obvious since she struggled to keep two hands on the steering wheel as she moved to the beat.
My memories feel small when compared to Prince’s die-hard fans who had walls littered with his posters in the 80s and connected with him not only as an artist, but a black man who played by his own rules and proudly flaunted his freak. Many credit Prince with helping them connect with their sexuality, other artists who are immensely talented in their own right refer to the legendary instrumentalist with inspiring them to pick up a guitar and make their own music.
Now that Prince is gone, I know that I took him for granted. There was never a time when I wasn’t aware of his talent or how much I enjoy his music, but he was one of those artists that I assumed would always be around. One day I will die but Prince will live on. It’s silly but true. I missed both concerts he played in my hometown but I was never sad about this until now. I was always confident he would be back. Or, even better, I would catch up to him on that trip overseas I have been meaning to take. Now when I listen to his songs and take in his past performances, the music is even richer, pointed, a pleasant but also painful reminder how I didn’t listen and observe his talent enough before I opened Twitter on Thursday afternoon. I’m so interested in everything I am only just learning about Prince, but also shamed because I didn’t take the time before he passed.
This isn’t new. Reflecting on missed opportunities is commonplace. Since I lost my Dad almost 8 years ago, I find myself trying to honour him in the only way that makes sense to someone like me, who’s not into showy gestures. From the time when I was a child, not even 10, he would routinely check in and make sure I was saving my money. I never understood why he kept bringing this up especially since the only money I had was the $2 weekly allowance my mother doled out and maybe the odd cash gift from a relative on my birthday. I would ask myself, what exactly should I be saving for? My piggy bank was rattled for trips to the candy store with the kids next door or a trinket at Bi-Way. Life was simple. I now understand that tucking away some money was important to him and a lesson he valued and wanted to pass over to me. Now that I’m in my thirties, there is still room for improvement when it comes to beefing up my savings account but I have moments where I refrain from what seems like the most inconsequential purchase with my Dad in mind: I guess I don’t need to add that magazine to my grocery bill. Saving a few dollars is my version of a tribute.
The death of Prince has made me pause. We live in a time when any song, album, performance is available with a quick Google search. All access is a beautiful thing but it also puts us in the state of mind of everything is forever and allows us to escape the present. I’m going to keep this in check and make the effort to go see my favorites perform (even if it requires some travel), check out other projects they may be working on, read digital liner notes (this was a given when I would buy CDs), get to know them as a person outside of their craft—gratitude means nothing if it is not expressed.